Since moving into my latest Amsterdam flat about a year ago, I have been dreaming about putting the beautiful 5 x 2 meters squared/ South-facing balcony to good use. Last year was a first attempt, and it went quite well. This year, I am curious to know: how much can one really grow on a (albeit, quite sizable) city flat’s balcony? And how much effort will it take? After all, I have two jobs and often travel, for work or pleasure… (I do have a helpful flatmate, but she is also quite busy with work and travels. So who will care for my babies from time to time?) But, if my garden is successful, is this enough to supplement (or at least compliment) going to the grocery store or farmers’ market? Or is it more of a hobby project? Perhaps… a bit of both.
While this has been a cold spring, I’m happy to report the garden is finally reaching its potential – my seedlings have all been sent outside and some of them are becoming proper plants. I’ve previously reported on some of the other urban agricultural activities I am involved in, here in Amsterdam. But it really doesn’t get much more ‘local’ than the kitchen balcony. This year, I have tried my hand at the following crops: (several types of) heirloom tomatoes, (several types of) peas, (several types of) peppers, fava beans, strawberries carrots, radishes, rhubarb, beets, spinach, arugula, potatoes, pumpkin, sunflowers, lavender, red & yellow onions, lettuce, bok choy and courgette. I’m also growing a few herbs and medicinal crops: basil, mint, thyme, chives, rosemary, coriander, lemon balm, and comfrey. Of course I also have a few flowers: pansies & nasturtiums – both edible; as well as a mix of bee-friendly flower seeds and a few other varieties that remind me of my childhood and my grandmother. (Yes, I’m a bit sentimental…)
Since I move around a lot and never know how long I will stay in a place, I want to keep the investments minimal – for my pocketbook and to reduce my environmental footprint. (After all, how sustainable is my garden habit, if I only use it for ones season?) No worry though: in Amsterdam people throw out the funniest things, including many of the pots now on my balcony… the rest of my plant containers consist of veggie crates from local supermarkets. As such, the only thing I have really purchased? A few bags of soil (that I carried up the four flights of stairs), some starter plants, a variety of seeds – and a few gardening courses to help me maximize the space and light (e.g. Cityplot’s courses on “urban permaculture“, “worm compost“, “grow your own pesto” and “creating a bee-friendly garden”.) After all, I’ve always had a few herbs in the windowsills… but this is the first time I’ve had enough space to explore so much variety & I have a lot to learn!
Now comes the fun part: after the last several months watching (and watering) the seedlings in the windowsills, they are all outside and have started to produce. I’ve had my first few salads consisting of spinach, mixed greens, radishes and pansies. Looking forward to more variety soon, as the garden grows! I’ve also come across another great blog with fun receipts for kitchen/ urban gardens… can’t wait to test them out!